You can’t expect ideas to just fall from the sky and materialise in your head. You will often have to make an active effort to generate creative processes and encourage ideas. When you try to develop ideas, it’s essential not to restrict yourself and your thoughts. Be open to any idea or thought that comes to mind – even if it may seem crazy and useless. You can then decide later on whether the ideas have any value.
Always consider the timeframe available for your work, and find a focus that matches this timeframe. Also, try to find a problem that matches the scope of your assignment and the time available to write it. Students are often tempted to select a topic that is too broad for the scope of the assignment because they are afraid that they will not have enough material.
Your supervisor can help you assess whether the planning of your assignment process seems realistic. You can also arrange regular meetings with your supervisor, so you always have a new deadline for your work. This can be a good way to force yourself to meet your deadlines. Click here to read more about supervision.
When you have selected and narrowed down your topic, turn it into a problem statement.
Below you will find examples of six different methods that can help you to get ideas to a topic.
A mind map can be a useful tool to organise your thoughts and ideas.
Start by defining the point of origin of your mind map.
Write the word or sentence in the middle of a large piece of paper.
Then write down all your thoughts, theories and ideas around the word or sentence.
Each time you add something, draw a line to the point of origin or to one or more of the other things on the paper.
This will help you spot new angles and links that can be difficult to manage and keep track of in your head.
Free writing can help you develop a thought or an idea and get it down on paper.
Ideas often come tumbling all at once, or out of the blue while you’re doing something else. Writing them down the minute they come to mind can be a great help.
Group exercise: Circle technique
The circle technique is a method of collaborating with other students, for example your study group, on developing ideas.
This will help you build on your ideas and explore them further. Working with other students on your ideas can be inspiring.
Criteria for your choice of topic
Establishing criteria for your choice of topic can be helpful when selecting a topic for a free-choice assignment. Download the criteria exercise (pdf).
Following this procedure will enable you to narrow down what you would find interesting to work on. At the same time, your preliminary ideas about your assignment will be translated into specific topics you can explore further.
Sources for inspiration
Go over the points on the mind map above (pdf) and follow each arrow. Take notes for each point to identify a topic that you would like to work on.
When deciding on a topic for an assignment, you can draw inspiration from the knowledge you have already acquired.
|DRAW INSPIRATION FROM YOUR ACADEMIC KNOWLEDGE|
Use your existing knowledge
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time you write an assignment. Sometimes it makes sense to reuse empirical data from a previous assignment, course or project and place it in a new context, and sometimes you can further explore a theory you have used before. You might want to ask yourself the following questions to get started:
What do you want to do afterwards?
If you have an idea of what you want to do after you graduate, it makes good sense to consider this when deciding on a topic – especially if you’re about to begin your Master's thesis. Think about the kind of industry you could imagine working in after you graduate, or what kind of job you would find interesting.
You might write your assignment or thesis in collaboration with a company or an organisation that fits into your future career plans. Or you can choose to work alone on a topic related to your future career interests. In this way, you can use your thesis to prepare yourself for the labour market.
Use your assignment as a springboard to the labour market:
Contact to companies
If you would like to work with a company, but have no prior affiliation with one, a good place to start is on jobbank.au.dk, which is a site where:
In any case, make sure you are well-prepared before you contact a company, so that you act professionally when proposing a collaboration. It’s important that you have a clearly defined purpose and that you align your expectations for the collaboration. Read a step-by-step guide on business collaboration, and learn about research, contracts and possible challenges.
|INSPIRATION FROM YOUR SURROUNDING ENVIRONMENT|
Use your fellow students
Talking to your fellow students about their topics can be an inspiration for choosing your own topic.
This will give you insight into areas that seem to be under-researched or highly relevant, or it may confirm that others find a particular topic interesting as well. Knowing what others are writing about or have previously written about will also give you a better idea of what a Master's thesis entails.
Find inspiration in current debates
When choosing a topic, you can find inspiration in current news or debates in the media or within your field of study. This can give your assignment more relevance and place it in the context of issues that are high on the public agenda.
Are there any current events or debates that interest you?
Is there anything exciting going on at your faculty right now?
Many departments organise thesis seminars or discussion groups for Master's thesis students where they can find help and inspiration from other Master's thesis students, teachers and lecturers, for example with regard to:
The thesis seminar is a forum where students can share their experience and exchange ideas. It’s an ideal place to learn about being a Master's thesis student.
Get inspiration from your leisure activities
Do you have any interests outside your studies? Perhaps you can use specialist knowledge you have acquired in your leisure time. Or maybe you can do a scientific study of something you have practical knowledge about.
What you are passionate about?
If you are a sports coach in your spare time, you may have a special interest in communicating to the particular age group that you’re coaching. If you are a scout leader, maybe you have special knowledge about organisational culture and forms of collaboration. Or if you spend a lot of time on social media, perhaps you would be interested in doing a study on perceptions of identity and communication forums.
Most major assignments, especially Master's theses, combine different methods of investigation. Consider which methods you primarily want to work with. For example, consider the following:
What do I have positive/negative experience with?
Are there any methods I would like to become more familiar with before I graduate?
Are there any methods that are commonly used to address the topic/problem statement I am working on? Do I want to use any of these methods, or do I want to take a different approach?
Are there any methods that my supervisor has special knowledge of?
What is my supervisor’s response to my ideas with regard to methods of investigation?
Get a list of thesis titles (in Danish) from your field of study, and draw inspiration from other students’ choice of topics.
Find a relevant topic or problem by collaborating with a company/organisation on your project, exam paper or Master's thesis. Explore the options on your study portal (in Danish).